I must admit, when I first saw the trailer for Gangster Squad last year, I wasn’t especially impressed. I simply thought, here we go again, another attempt to re-invent a genre for a generation who are unfamiliar with it. I wasn’t exactly overwhelmed with director Ruben Fleischer’s resume either I didn’t particular like Zombieland and haven’t seen 30 Minutes Or Less. Then came the tragic events in Aurora, Colarado which lead to the movie being delayed so that the original ending (which featured a shoot-out in a movie theatre) could be replaced. So I wasn’t expecting a movie up to the standards of say Once Upon A Time In America or Miller’s Crossing and it would seem that I was right not to do so. Gangster Squad is not especially good in any respect.
Gangster Squad has a beautiful production design and a great amount of period detail Unfortunately no such attention has been lavished upon the plot with Will Beall’s screenplay playing like an over simplified version of The Untouchables. The movie attempts to bolsters the ailing narrative with numerous action set pieces but these violent punctuation points lack any impact as they are simply there out of necessity. The plot has no subtext about poverty, honour among thieves, political or religious oppression. None of the usual themes you would associate with the genre. Simply put, Gangster Squad suffers from all the usual problems of contemporary action films and thrillers. All this production has managed to do is bring these to a different setting.
Sean Penn excessive performance as crime boss Cohen is trying and Emma Stone is miscast as a femme-fatale. The remainder of the cast both old and young, struggle to bring any conviction to the lifeless dialogue. It is a criminal waste of such talents as Josh Brolin, Giovanni Ribisi and Nick Nolte. The movies newly shot conclusion is perfunctory and uninspired, offering the spectacle of violence and precious little else. I was not overly concerned about the plot holes as I had precious little interest in the story or characters by this point. The overall impression I was left with after watching Gangster Squad, is that everyone concerned with the production had learnt all that they know about the genre, not through watching classic movies but by playing the Mafia video game franchise.